As the mother of two and a former teacher I try very hard to think of the moral implications of everything I write. My characters always tend to be between the ages of 12-18 and they often find themselves in situations without a lot of adult supervision.
In the past I have had characters deal with alcohol, drugs and other things normal teens might be exposed to in everyday life. The one subject that none of my characters has ever dealt with first hand before is sex. Sure they have thought about it, some have even talked about it, a few have come close to doing it but none have ever actually done it, especially not right there on the page in front of whoever happens to be reading it.
Today I took a break from editing another novel and decided to spend a few minutes with my work in progress. The protagonist a soon to be 17 year old girl, thinks about her two previous sexual encounters both of the one night stand variety and not overly enjoyable. Flash forward about 700 or so words later and she is alone in a romantic setting with her boyfriend. The actual act was tender, sweet and not very graphic. It seemed to be quite relevant to the plot and it was almost like something that she just had to do in order to mature and move on.
My gut reaction was to select and cut the entire scene. I highlighted it in readiness to do just that but then I reread it, I toned it down a bit so it was even more implied and in the end I even liked it a little. My protagonist was comfortable with it so why shouldn’t I be?
Which leads to the question how much moral responsibility do we as young adult writers have to our readers? We know there are many teens out there that are sexually active. Do our characters have to stay virgins to set a good examples or is it more important to give readers a character that they can relate to?